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How do I start learning paragliding? Complete Guide to getting started!


Students learning to paraglide

What is Paragliding?

Paragliding is an exciting and exhilarating sport that combines the thrill of free-flying with the beauty of soaring over beautiful landscapes. It's peaceful, quiet, and surreal to say the least.


However, before you can start flying, you need to learn the basics of paragliding. Tandem Paragliding flights are a perfect introduction to the world of Paragliding and Paramotor for anyone on the fence about starting lessons. Most students go straight into classes so they can start flying from the training hill right away.


Be sure to check out the last section of this article for little known fact about Paragliding in Southern California


 
Paragliding teacher instructor

About the Author

My name is Jordan and I've been Paragliding and Paramotoring for over 15 years. I love teaching my students how to manifest their dreams of flight and it's been incredibly rewarding to conduct over 3,000 Paragliding Tandem flights in my career. I know a thing or two about flying and that's why I've based my school at the best flying site in North America for students to learn how to become Paraglider Pilots. The San Bernardino mountains offer over 300 days a year of good flying conditions and there are several launch options with ride services to launch available. Andy Jackson Airpark is actually considered the flagship site of Paragliding, no other location comes close to what this mountain site has to offer.


 

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about how to start learning paragliding, including the best paragliding schools in Southern California, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and nearby areas, the cost of paragliding, and more.


Paragliding in Winchester, California sunset

How do I start learning paragliding?

Learning to paraglide requires a combination of ground-based instruction, coaching, practice, and in-flight training. The first step is to find a reputable paragliding school that offers comprehensive training programs for beginners. The difference between a school and just an instructor is that schools are held to higher standards and require insurance and formal certifications for their programs whereas someone could just call themselves an instructor because they know how to fly. But it doesn't mean that they know how to teach, that they have certifications, or that they will be around in the next few months.


Best paragliding schools in Southern California

If you're looking to start learning paragliding in Southern California, there are actually only a few reputable schools to choose from. This is mostly because the places where you can teach an activity like Paragliding are limited to a handful of places. You must have the right terrain, the right weather patterns, and of course permission to do so. A school operating in one of these sites needs to be high quality and have a reputation for safety in order to be successful. If an organization isn't taking its student's safety seriously or isn't committed to providing innovative and professional paragliding instruction then they will go out of business as those who are meeting those needs quickly take over.


A great way to get some insight regarding the quality of a school's flight training program is to read their reviews. The student experience is one of the best metrics to let you know that a flight school is running a program that students are glad they found. Their gratitude says it all, and with over 100 5-star reviews, we know that our school is providing a top notch experience for new pilots!


Not all schools can say as much. Some operate without insurance and even one in Malibu operates without any instructor certifications at all. Without any oversight, it's easy for these fly-by-night programs to sweep dangerous practices and accidents under the rug. But just look at their reviews and see how students and tandem passengers feel about the experience that they paid for. When it comes time to issuing USHPA pilot ratings, these second-rate instructors can't do it because they aren't even certified themselves. No insurance, no school curriculum, and no certifications. Basically they are taking advantage of newbies who don't know enough about the sport to make an informed decision on their own.


The truth is, their operation is basically a scam and a waste of time and money. The student learns after paying for training that they can't get the necessary ratings to fly at other paragliding sites around Southern California, and by then it's too late. By the time you figure it out, they already have your money.

students learning to kite a paraglider in San Bernardino, California

I've worked with a few schools in this area and before I started my own, I got to see the good and bad of paragliding instruction. It gave me a unique opportunity to create a safe and effective flight training program that was tailored to the student's needs while avoiding all of those sneaky little surprises that leave new pilots feeling ripped off.


What I also noticed was that most schools and instructors simply don't innovate. They want to do the bare minimum, stick to what's cheap and comfortable, and so you won't see them doing anything extra like offering Online Classes, field trips to other flying sites, or paramotor crossover training. I'm sure you've seen other businesses that have become complacent and lazy over time, this sport has them too.


It's a shame that they haven't tried to improve the student experience by any measurable amount since they started. But we've done things differently and chose to continually add value instead and it really wasn't that difficult. We publish our full training course online leading to a whole list of benefits for students.

 
Benefits of Online Paragliding Classes:
  • Ease of Access - students can engage in training material anywhere at any time

  • Class Structure - lessons are highly organized and thoughtfully produced

  • Progress Tracking - your path through training is tracked automatically

  • Ability to Review - students can revisit topics when they feel they need more detail

  • Guided Discussion - live lessons give students the opportunity to get answers


In addition to Online Lessons, FlyWithJordan provides Unlimited Lessons so you just pay the tuition and get all of the training you require to advance safely to the next level! This is precisely why I believe we're doing so well as a school and a business. We are willing to make the extra effort to improve the student experience and grow the sport wherever we can. It's more than just showing up for work, we are about creating a new and better standard for the way pilots come into this sport.


I see just a few other schools that innovate in similar ways. One example is Fly Above All Paragliding, located in Santa Barbara and then there is the world famous Torrey Pines Glider Port in San Diego. These are pretty far away for most of us but if you happen to be close then you should check out what they have to offer. Another favorite is Superfly Paragliding in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are what I would call and industry-leading school as well. Just like our school, these operate major flying sites with high standards for safety and quality instruction. We are proud to be on the A-list with these schools.


FlyWithJordan Paragliding Lessons and Tandems

951.901.0995

https://www.flywithjordan.info/

5500 Ben Canyon Rd, San Bernardino, California


Torrey Pines Glider Port

Superfly Paragliding



Paragliding near me

Finding one close by is great, but it's not just a matter of convenience because not all flying sites are the same. Even if a school is run responsibly, the site itself may be limited with what it can offer new pilots. Some sites just don't have good flying conditions very often due to seasonal and regional weather patterns. Our site has great flying 300 days a year on average but this is exceptional in our sport. In fact, it's the reason why most pilots prefer to fly in San Bernardino rather than closer sites.


Sometimes a site is limited by terrain features. Coastal sites have smooth air but they are tiny in comparison to the mountain sites that this region is known for. The making of a truly skilled paragliding pilot happens in the mountains because you can't learn to thermal, cross country, or anything about active piloting at a coastal site. They are literally too easy to fly. Even if one is closer, it will likely be a much better overall learning experience to go to a mountain site where you will learn thermal flying and be able to explore various terrain features instead of the same set of cliffs every time you fly.


If you are in Southern California, then it's worth the trip to find a good paragliding school in the mountains and most students will drive 1-2 hours just to get to a world-class flying site like the San Bernardino Mountains offer. At this site you can fly to 15,000 ft and cover 40 miles in one flight. At a coastal site you would be lucky to get 800 ft and even 2 miles, it's like playing in the kiddie pool. Pretty laughable by paragliding standards. This is why paragliding pilots from all over the planet make it a point to stop here when visiting California.


If you're looking for paragliding schools near you, you can simply search online for "paragliding near me." This will bring up a list of schools in your area that offer paragliding training programs. Look for schools with lots of high ratings and a well thought out website and course curriculum. Anyone can get a couple of friends and family to leave 5-star ratings but you will know a legitimate school when you see well over 100 5-star reviews that are all encouraging you join the school. Find out which is the closest mountain site and then start doing some research on the schools that host high quality training programs. Of course I have a bias towards my own site and school but the advice given here will serve you no matter where you are searching.


Paragliding School Insurance

Avoid any schools that are not covered by the Professional Air Sports Association PASA. Ask about this insurance coverage before considering any flight training program. The schools and instructors without this insurance are below the minimum safety standards for the sport. There's a reason they aren't approved already. At this time, PASA and Prime are the only insurance carriers for our sport. Some instructors have phony contracts with carriers that don't know what activities they are actually providing coverage for. They just have a piece of paper that says there is coverage but the fine print says otherwise. This means that any claims made will be immediately denied, so it's just a piece of paper and a cut-corner tactic. Think about it, would a company like Next Insurance really cover an activity like Paragliding for $35 a month? That's silly!


You should also avoid any instructors who do not have instructor certificates through the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association USHPA. If they aren't certified instructors then they cannot issue ratings that you would need to fly at any established flying site in North America. USHPA is they only rating organization that matters for our sport because literally all established flying sites require ratings from USHPA. Some paragliding instructors pretend to be legit just to get you in the door but have no ability to get you a rating from USHPA. Yes, they taught you how to fly but then you would have to pay someone else more money just to get something you need to fly at every flying site. Better just to find a school with qualified and certified instructors in the first place.


As one more step in the vetting process, you can also ask for recommendations from friends or family members who have experience with paragliding. Southern California is a hotspot for paragliding in the USA so many people from this region have some familiarity with the sport. Reputation is everything and good schools and instructors are known by name.


Paramotor

A paramotor is a type of powered paraglider that uses a motor to provide thrust and lift. It allows paragliders to take off from flat ground without the need for hills or mountains. If you're interested in paramotoring, you should look for a school that offers crossover training programs for this type of flying. For our students who have the canopy skills required, the paramotor training is completed in about a day. It's pretty easy once you know how to launch and land a wing.


Paramotor training goes pretty much the same way. There are instructors out there more interested in selling you gear than your safety, just operating out of their pickup trucks and convincing students they only need a couple of days of flight instruction. Another scam for sure. You won't learn complex subjects like flight planning, weather forecasting, canopy control, and reading terrain in just a couple of lessons. You won't be safe, competent or confident with just the bare minimum.


Paramotoring over snowy mountains in Apple Valley, California

Avoid going straight in to Paramotor without any canopy training. This is what most people in other areas of the nation are forced to do, but you are one of the lucky ones. You have access to these amazing flying sites in Southern California that give you an opportunity to get good can canopy flying before you add power to the equation. Paragliding sites have training hills where you can learn how to launch and land under instruction from qualified coaches. Additionally, you will also learn considerably more about weather than your average paramotor pilot who basically just knows very little.


Paramotor in the Southern California is not as accessible as most people might think. If you're considering powered paragliding then check out this article which explains some of the details you may want to be aware of before investing into powered paragliding.


Cost of paragliding

The cost of paragliding can vary depending on several factors, including the length of the training program, the type of equipment used, and the location of the school. On average, a beginner paragliding course can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $3,800. This includes ground-based instruction, in-flight training, and equipment to get started.


While some schools will give you pricing for P1-P2 ratings, it's really the P3 that you're after. That is the rating that will get you access to the good flying sites. A P2 is almost useless so find out how much it will take to get to a P3 rating. One of the scams in this industry is to get you to pay for a P2 rating which sounds affordable and then when you realize that you actually want the P3, then you find out that it will cost you over $1,500 to do that. Shady business practices.


We have Unlimited Lessons so that nobody has to deal with ongoing costs just to get more training and I wish all schools operated this way. It shouldn't be a financial consideration just to get the minimum amount of training to be a safe pilot. So my recommendation is to avoid the pay-as-you-go structure completely unless it includes Unlimited Lessons too. With Unlimited Lessons, my students pay tuition one time and then they have access to in-person coaching and online lessons for life!


Young woman learning to paraglide
PARAGLIDING FAQs:
Q: How long does it take to learn paragliding?

A: The length of time it takes to learn paragliding varies depending on the student's skill level, the quality of instruction, and the frequency of training. On average, it can take anywhere from 10 to 30 days to complete a beginner training program.


Q: Do I need any special equipment to start paragliding?

A: No, you don't need any special equipment to start paragliding. However, you will eventually need to purchase your own flight equipment, including a wing, harness, helmet, and reserve parachute. Renting gear may be an option but it is definitely not a long term solution.


Q: Is paragliding safe?

A: Paragliding is generally considered safe as long as proper safety guidelines are followed, including proper equipment use, weather monitoring, and proper training. The way you start paragliding has a huge influence on what type of pilot you will become. Since good risk management and good judgement are paramount, a school which prioritizes these perspectives in it's course will have safer graduates. However, it is always up to the individual to continue safe practices after they finish training.


Q: Can I paraglide alone or do I need a partner?

A: You can paraglide solo or with a partner, depending on your preference and skill level. If you have never flown before then you would want to go Tandem Paragliding or take lessons until you have the skills to fly solo.


Q: What is the difference between paragliding and hang gliding?

A: Paragliding and hang gliding are both types of free-flight sports, but they differ in their equipment and flying styles. Paragliders use a canopy while hang gliders use a rigid wing. Hang gliders can fly a bit faster but they are next to impossible to hike with and they don't fold up nearly as small as a paraglider.


Paragliding is growing in popularity because it is more affordable, easier to travel and hike with, and because it offers more airtime because setting up and stowing your equipment takes ten minutes or less.

intermediate pilot launching a paraglider

 

Lesser Known Facts About Paragliding

Here are some interesting facts about paragliding that I find most newcomers are surprised to learn.


You can fly higher and longer without a motor on

Paramotor is an awesome experience but after climbing a few thousand feet, a paramotor will lose efficiency in terms of proper air/fuel mixture and also it's ability to generate thrust in thinner air. A paraglider can fly to 15,000ft and beyond without issue. With a paramotor, your airtime is relegated to the amount of fuel you can carry which is legally no more than 5 gallons. But in a paraglider one can fly for well over 8 hours if the conditions are right.


You can paraglide from a mountain top, go as far as you can, then Uber back to your car

This is a new age for us pilots and having an aircraft you can put into a bag means that you can travel easily. Now we can test our skills at flying distance and returning back to our vehicle usually costs less than $20!


At our site, you can fly 40 miles down the range

Starting in San Bernardino, pilots can fly all the way to Hemet and beyond on a good flying day. One of my favorite routes to fly is from Lake Elsinore to San Jacinto and this can be done even on a beginner paraglider.


There are about 12 different flying sites within a 2 hour radius of the Inland Empire

Southern California is home to many awesome flying sites. The mountains and fantastic weather means you will always have options to fly somewhere in this region.


Paragliding is the most affordable way to get airtime

There simply is no other option for getting airtime that is at a better price point that Paragliding. You can get lessons and all of your flying gear for $7500 and that is less than what buyers are paying for a new dirt bike.


You will be paragliding for decades

Paragliding is engaging over a very long time period because every time you fly, you also learn something new. This means that what you learn about reading the weather, the canopy, flying and yourself translates to longer and higher flights. There's nothing like visiting other states and countries to go fly and so there is a whole world of adventure and exploring just waiting for you!







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